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Women General Counsel and In House Women Lawyers Focused on Growth

In 2006, the National Association of Women Lawyers (NAWL) challenged corporations, law firms and law schools to double their number of women general counsel, equity partners, and tenured faculty from 15% to 30% by 2015.  In 2007, NAWL held a national Summit in Washington, D.C. to devise best practices to achieve these goals and issued its Summit Report on Actions to Advance Women into Law Firm Leadership.   

Here we are in 2010.  What progress has been made to advance women in law departments?  Today women comprise 17% of Generals Counsel in Fortune 500 companies and 15.2% of those in the Fortune 501-1000. While some progress had been made, it is not enough.  NAWL is now embarking on a series of Summits around the country to evaluate the progress of women in the law and to further refine best practices to ensure these goals are achieved.  

What are the challenges for in house women?  Legal departments are relatively flat and, unlike law firms, there is no defined career track.  Law schools don't teach basic business skills (distinct from corporate law) yet lawyers need to understand basic business fundamentals to advance.  Best practices to advance are akin to those for women in firms:  to take charge of one’s career, be proactive, seek opportunities, and to find mentors on the business side as well as within the law department.  Building one’s professional network as well as acquiring business and industry knowledge are not simply valuable—they’re necessary.

One way that NAWL is supporting women General Counsel and senior in house women lawyers is through its annual General Counsel Institute.  In New York on November 4-5, NAWL will put on its 6th General Counsel Institute:  Managing Through Change - The New Normal  It is designed to help in house women build top-tier professional and management skills and their networks.  The theme this year will explore what it takes to thrive in an environment where "doing more with less" has evolved from temporary solution-- to corporate mantra --to "The New Normal".  

The Institute provides a unique opportunity for women corporate counsel to learn from leading experts and experienced legal colleagues about the pressure points and measurements of success for general counsel. The environment is supportive and interactive – and it is limited to in house counsel.

Participants include women lawyers in public and private corporations, nonprofits, academia, government and the military.  

Insight and educational opportunities include: 

-- Keynote addresses and insight from Leslie Turner, General Counsel of Coca Cola North America, and Dee Dee Myers, the first woman to serve as White House Press Secretary and author of the book  Why Women Should Rule the World.  

-- Speakers include the General Counsels of Con Edison, National Public Radio, Nike, Southwest Airlines, Stuart Weitzman, and more. 

Workshops include: 

--The Intersection of Social Networking and Litigation - with a handy list of the Top Ten Risks of Social Networking

--Engaging Men in Gender Initiatives - Stacking the Deck for Success

--Hot Topics in Executive Compensation

--Maximizing the Power of Your Company's Brand

--Opportunities to broaden your basic skills in the popular "Focus on the Fundamentals" series

General Counsel Institute 6: Managing Through Change - The New Normal, will be held November 4-5, 2010 at the Westin Hotel in New York, New York.  For more information, go to http://www.nawl.org    

Copyright ®, 2021 National Association of Women LawyersNational Law Review, Volume , Number 294
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About this Author

Dorian Denburg Attorney

Dorian Denburg is General Attorney for AT&T with responsibility for Network Operations, including counseling clients, federal and state litigation, legislation and regulation. The Company avoided $600 million in expenses through first-impression cases and legislation Dorian handled.

She is president of The National Association of Women Lawyers and created a national program to guide law firms in developing and solidifying relationships with in-house counsel.  Ms. Denburg is grateful for the opportunity to lead such an important and dynamic organization.

Ms. Denburg...

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